Jewish Festival of Education

Sometimes called ‘the Festival of Our Freedom,’ Passover is also the Jewish festival of education. 

When ancient rabbis configured the Seder, their central purpose was educating the next generation. For example, in the section of the Four Children, we see the rabbis acknowledging the reality that not all kids learn the same way—each child has different attitudes. Some students have a great appetite for education; some are rebellious, and choose to challenge their teachers; some simply don’t want to be bothered; and some have a limited intellectual ability. Yet all must learn the real meaning of being Jewish. 

Every year, for 2,000 years, our people have read the Haggadah. Yet it is only recently that we understood the wisdom of the Haggadah should not be limited to Passover, but should be extended to teaching year-round in the Temple in general—and in Religious Schools in particular. One of the people who deeply understands this is David Sherman, Temple’s Education Director. When David started at Temple Beth Am seven years ago, he had two main goals: first, for the students to associate Religious School with a positive experience, and second, to extend Jewish education to the 12th grade. He greatly succeeded in both. David knows that the keys to success are innovation and flexibility, and he has implemented both into our curriculum. For example, in the spirit of innovation, TBA’s Religious School is one of the few in the country in which students study Hebrew via Skype.  

To honor David Sherman for elevating the quality of our education programs for the last seven years, we will have a Shabbat Service on Friday, May 1st, followed by a special oneg. We want to thank him for all his years of leadership and dedication. 

Last summer, when David announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year, we decided to look for a successor who would spend a year shadowing David and planning for the future. We were lucky to find Alissa Frankel. Alissa has dedicated her time this year to research, and from that research she has developed a new paradigm for Religious School, one which fits the culture and needs of our community. It is indeed an exciting and innovative program that she will present, along with her new team, at our Religious School Open House on Sunday, May 17, at 11:00am. 

This year, Alissa has also functioned as our Youth Director. In that time, she has put herself to the task of meshing the standards of the youth group with TBA’s vision. She accomplished it very quickly. To quote one of the Youth Group members: “In just a year, Alissa has engaged me, and many others, in JAMTY, our Temple Youth Group. She encouraged me to go to my first NFTY-STR (North American Federation for Temple Youth-Southern Tropical Region) event, and my second, until I didn’t need her instigation to jump on the computer and sign up. She drew the blueprint for my bridge of connection between my Jewish identity and my cynical teenage mindset. Without her, I, and many of the Temple Beth Am teenagers, would not have realized the significance of JAMTY, and NFTY as a whole, in our lives.” 

I’m looking forward to seeing you at both events, thanking David for his past contributions, and discovering Alissa’s plans for the future.  

Happy Passover,  
Rabbi Alon Levkovitz